After a week in Roatan, circling Pearson Airport was like approaching a land scrubbed raw of colour. From above, Toronto in April is the colour of oatmeal and gym socks, a dismally pale palette to return to after being submerged in so many shades of indigo blue and the verdant hills of Honduras.
Air traffic for me had been occupied by looping sunset orange butterflies and hummingbirds bee-lining to the next cone-shaped flower. Grackles, seemingly on steroids (twice as big as their Canadian counterparts), staggered like drunken sailors across the crab grass. Lizards with anti-freeze blue heads skittered and disappeared behind the safety of heavy hibiscus blooms and leaves. A frilled lizard comically sprinted on its hind legs beyond my sight line.
In minutes I was convinced that I had a latitude problem. How did I end up in Brantford, Ontario when my skin and soul clearly vibrates and hums in the equatorial sun?
Despite the gale-force wind whipping off the Caribbean Sea, my navel instantly became a tidal pool of sweat. You could fry an egg on any surface, especially my bare shoulders. Blood inched through my veins like thickening pasta sauce. And I loved it. I felt alive. My mother would have wilted faster than Charlie Sheen’s tour.
Roatan was an extreme last minute decision (four days prior to departure), although Honduras had been on my mind since 2004 or so, when a mosquito-borne viral encephalitis outbreak banned Canadian travel, and I was ‘forced’ to explore Panama instead. Some people have Georgia on their mind, I had Honduras on mine.
I opted for the Roatan Roulette when I booked which makes the exact all-inclusive property you will be staying at a surprise until 48 hours before the flight. In desperate need of sun rehab, ripe mangoes and a low expectation bar of Central American “four star” accommodations, I decided there was zero risk. My chameleon self would thrive and blend in any environ. But I secretly pined for the high end Media Luna sea-side cabanas with a price point of $1,745 a week.
And sometimes when you pray to the Expedia gods and the Saint of Awesome Resorts, wishes are granted. Media Luna it was! I accepted this stroke of horseshoe luck as my March Karma Miles redemption plan.
The splashy Henry Morgan-owned property just opened in December, 2010. Construction of all the cabanas has yet to be completed, allowing for a unique closer-knit experience. There were only 31 guests which meant no fist fights over lounge chairs, no beach bar line-ups for mojitos and intimate mingling without the super crowds of 300+ guests that most resorts attract.
Media Luna (Half Moon) bay is three winding kilometers from the main road (25 minutes from the airport), and is tucked in a deep swatch of green that pulsates with flycatchers, hammering red-headed woodpeckers and flickers. The cove is protected by a stretch of purple sea fan studded reef, wave-battered lava rock, tall palms and snake-like cacti. Pirates loved Roatan, “The Island of Bays,” for this very reason—instead of long, exposed stretches of beach, the island consists of several secluded inlets and coves. For me, the isolation and exemption from vendors wanting to braid your hair and take your picture with a cranky iguana was so welcomed. I’m with the pirates on this one. I did miss the grand expanse of polished sand though, and walking mindless miles picking up sand dollars and broken coral bits. But then I thought, my god, I walk over 10 kilometres a day sometimes. My body can take a time out on the walking frontier. And the walk to the beach bar was a good three minutes from my pier perch.
The ambience and carefully appointed details of the Media Luna resort was a blueprint of sun-licked, surf-crashing nirvana. I felt like I was at the coolest summer camp ever with hermit crabs scuttling underfoot, pina coladas ever present in hand and no itinerary but indulgent reading and sunset observation. The rooms were George Clooney worthy with four poster King beds , sexy open concept rainfall showers, bidets and wrap-around balconies that could accommodate 50 rum-swirling guests.
We ate like royalty thanks to the passionate Italian chef behind the scenes: oily conch fritters, baked sea bass, tender suckling pig, kicked-up chicken enchiladas, clams in zesty tomato marinade, fiery calamari skewers, crab-stuffed crepes, lobster quesadillas and beef empanadas. There were tortillas smeared with refried beans and scrambled eggs, puposas packed like piñatas full of cheese and neatly wrapped tamales peppered with corn and jalapenos.
I was channelling my inner pirate in a week of gluttony and booze. I was rarely seen in much else than my bikini and flip flops, supine on the pier. The Bombay Sapphire waters rocked below me, and lulled me into indulgent cat naps between chapters. My only tangible accomplishment was reading three books (and The Art of Racing in the Rain will probably top my Best of 2011 list too).
Each morning, after a saturated-with-sweat-oh-my-god-I-feel-like-human-fondue 5K run up Roatan’s mini La Paz, I would return to my palatial room to the most elaborate towel art I have seen. Now, balloon animals and origami are one category, but, creating elephants, monkeys and swans out of towels swimming in hibiscus petals on my King bed? Amazing. These are the minor fluffy details that make me swoon. This four and a half star gets a shooting star to boot.
Normally, I have extensive itineraries when I trip off somewhere. I make my Virgo lists of weird shit to eat, quirky spots for cocktails, must-see birds and the best sunset vantage points. And I did make a list. My sister was slightly appalled that I was going to such a diving hot spot with no interest in even snorkelling. But that’s another story. I did make note of ziplines, a submarine that would take the intrepid 600m deep (insert heebie-jeebies here), an iguana sanctuary, swimming with the dolphin type excursions, a hike on Flower Pot Bay and the best place for rum cake in Oak Ridge.
But, I couldn’t pry myself from the pier. I didn’t do anything on my list except eat the conch fritters, and that was by chance. And they mostly tasted like seafood bubblegum. Instead, I fell into a natural rhythm that reduced my days to the sheer simplicity of uninterrupted thinking, absorbing the heart-thumping beauty of the place I was in, reading with full attention span and digesting life at a more palatable pace.
I slept for 11 hours a night. I stared at the stars and listened to the smashing waves. I wrote postcards in my head to all my near and dears (because there were no actual postcards to be found. And when they were found at the airport, there were no stamps to purchase).
My mind flipped into a strange YouTube mode of clips on repeat. The clips were of similar travel-dusted moments and star-inspired dream sequences. I found myself all over the world under those constellations and for once, I was not searching, but content.
I didn’t eat a single insect, or street meat of any sort. There were no harrowing tales or epiphanies. No piranha fishing or parasites (I hope). I interloped with new friends, I laughed, I wandered, I felt love across the oceans, I drifted into a greater place.
I let myself just be.